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By: Felorin, Dr. Cat
Oct 15 2012 2:51am
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 Here's links to parts 1 and 2 of this series, which covered green and red.

So, with white, black, and blue left, I'm leaning a bit towards trying for blue if it's open, as I think it's the most sought after and also will be trickiest to assemble a good deck from. So I don't want to be left with it when I'm forced in with a draft where I can't make a solid deck. Let's see what the packs hold:

  Pack 1 pick 1:

  My Pick:

 

White has Land Tax, which was good enough to be banned in Legacy until just recently. Cloudgoat Ranger is solid, though not low enough mana cost to be a great fit for white weenie. Consuming Vapors is good black removal, and Stupor's decent disruption. But the blue I'm looking for has a really excellent card drawing spell - better than Tidings in my opinion. And it has a good finisher, which is what I'm most concerned about getting enough of in blue. Frost Titan also plays control, and can outrace two or even three opposing creatures at times. Happy to grab this guy.

  Pack 1 pick 2:

  My Pick:
 \

Man o War is a solid tempo card & roleplayer here, but I see another reasonable finisher that's hard for decks to answer, so I snag it.  I do want the Grim Monolith, as mana rocks are very useful for the blue deck and very fought over, it may have been the better choice here.

  Pack 1 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Here's a better mana rock!  And one of the best counterspells. Blue doesn't have the cards to play draw-go and will often have to tap low or tap out. This is the counterspell that guarantees you can still always stop their backbreaking bomb and just pay for it on layaway. The excellent Thran Dynamo might be better, but since blue is so popular I really want to cut it hard so I'll get more, and this lets me send a zero-blue pack to the left, an excellent signal.

  Pack 1 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Tinker is a combo piece for a deck I don't have any parts of yet. All is Dust is mass removal that even hits non-creatures, excellent for a control deck.

  Pack 1 pick 5:

  My Pick:

Time to start grabbing some much-needed mana acceleration. Looks like people to my right are taking blue, but at least I got a good card here.

  Pack 1 pick 6:

  My Pick:

How about the blue card, then?  This thing is excellent, giving you crazy amounts of card advantage over time.

  Pack 1 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Counterspells go in blue decks too, yes.  This one's got bonus points against things that come back from graveyards.

  Pack 1 pick 8:

  My Pick:

Looks like we have a pattern of getting one blue card per pack, but it's a fairly good one. This can set up combos if you get the right pack of four cards to get, but it still has value in a randomly strong blue deck.  Always a skill tester since you have so many options for what to pick. For a moment I thought Grimgrin was the guy who brings stuff back from the graveyard, which would be awesome, but that's Havengul Lich so never mind.

  Pack 1 pick 9:

  My Pick:

Multiple 5/5s out of one spell is good, but expensive and slow & they have no special abilities. Deep Analysis is the card I really regretted passing out of this pack, both for signaling someone else and for "me not having it" reasons. I'm thrilled to snap this thing up!

  Pack 1 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Tolaria West gains extra value because I have the Pact of Negation it can tutor for.  Very nice.

  Pack 1 pick 11:

  My Pick:

And now the random hatedrafting begins.

  Pack 1 pick 12:

  My Pick:

This might very well be splashable for some card selection, which blue decks like.

  Pack 1 pick 13:

  My Pick:

Could splash green to get more ramp than I can get from mana-rocks alone. Might be necessary since I passed two good ones early, so let's keep that plan open.

  Pack 1 pick 14:

  My Pick:

Hey, since this might be my splash color, and if so this could come in very handy.

  Pack 1 pick 15:

  My Pick:


  Pack 2 pick 1:

  My Pick:

We are not an aggro deck, Delver, sorry. Pristine Talisman is nice, but draw three for 1 mana is exactly what blue decks love to do.  Bam.

  Pack 2 pick 2:

  My Pick:

Now we're getting options! Brainstorm is good, but the two for one creature removal plus "oops I based you to death with your own Titan" card is the strongest here. It's maybe third best in the blue stealing suite of Vedalken Shackles, Treachery, Sower of Temptation, and Old Man of the Sea, but third best is still very strong!

  Pack 2 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Hex Parasite is a narrow answer (planeswalkers mainly) with few targets. Tandem Lookout is better in a deck with more creatures rather than a controllish deck.  So it comes down to Palinchron or Precursor Golem.  Looking back, I think Precursor may have been the better pick here, since we already have a couple of 6 drops. The ability to protect itself is interesting to me though, whereas the Golem has a big bulls-eye on him instead that says "extra value if you target me with removal"!  If they don't have removal though, he's just great value and much earlier defense (or offense).

  Pack 2 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Can't splash Pernicious Deed, dangit.  :D  Still, this guy protects all my creatures, and himself, and flies.  Good value for a 3 drop, and he makes Sower better.

  Pack 2 pick 5:

  My Pick:

There's some potential splashables here. Eldrazi Monument isn't good with few creatures, plus hey, I have three so far that already fly! A big finisher with card draw and annihilator seems fine, now I really need to prioritize mana rocks a lot.

  Pack 2 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Forbidden Alchemy is very tempting, as it finds you whatever you're needing that you don't have.  Twice. The Enclave Cryptologist  is another route towards that, slower but more long-lasting and giving you more total card advantage over time if the game lasts long enough.  I picked that, though Forbidden Alchemy may well be the better choice if you can successfully splash the black.  Spellskite is decent too, but not as good & I have my glass spinner anyway. Main value of Spellskite would be a quality earlier blocker against aggro, which is pretty good actually and I'm short on answers to aggro.

  Pack 2 pick 7:

  My Pick:

Mikaeus is a better splash if I have a lot of creatures. Stomphowler does something very valuable, in a color that's my main splash candidate right now. Treespeaker gets considered for being accel, but it's slow accel, in a splash color it'll usually take two turns setup to show me benefit on the third turn. Worse yet if I wait some extra turns to draw forest before even starting on that.

  Pack 2 pick 8:

  My Pick:

Smokestack is poor in this deck.  Creeping Tar Pit is good, but Looter gives me free card selection and a little trickle of damage, he's fine here.

  Pack 2 pick 9:

  My Pick:

Ok Delver, join my card pool.  If I'm short on playables you can fill in.

  Pack 2 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Narrow, or always good?  I'll take the Brainstorm, thanks!  Another quality wheel.

  Pack 2 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Only on-color (sorta) choice is a fine sideboard card, he comes in against planeswalkers.

  Pack 2 pick 12:

  My Pick:

Another counterspell is nice, and green is almost certainly our splash color now.

  Pack 2 pick 13:

  My Pick:


  Pack 2 pick 14:

  My Pick:


  Pack 2 pick 15:

  My Pick:


  Pack 3 pick 1:

  My Pick:

I want that Gilded Lotus, badly. But ohmagerd, Upheaval!  Possibly the strongest card in the set, as casting this with extra mana floating is an "I win" move against almost any situation where you're not already actually dead.  And if you're dead, how are you casting spells again? My hopes were my blue draft I'd see an early Upheaval or Capsize so I knew I had some crazy powerful plan, lucking into it pack 3 is fine. Wish the Lotus would wheel, but no way in hell.

  Pack 3 pick 2:

  My Pick:

I publically apologize for this pick.  For most of my minute plus, I was mentally debating whether my gut was right that Repeal is the better pick over Spell Pierce here. It is, but I was slowly talking myself into it.  I wouldn't rag too hard on anyone that took the Spell Pierce instead, as it's a fine quality spell that will do useful work in the deck. Cursecatcher isn't as good.  But around ten seconds to go, some insane part of my brain said "Well maybe some games I'll just randomly beat people down, like that one guy with Serendib Efreet did to me in an earlier draft" and my mouse zoomed down and picked this piece of crap that doesn't fit the deck's themes AT ALL. For the record, repeal is better because... Other counterspells are available and even in my pool already, but blue decks have trouble with early resolved threats that showed up before the counterspells. This lets you bounce it back and counter it the second time, or at least make them recast and buy you a precious turn or two to get to your big crazy stuff. AND it draws a card, which means getting to Upheaval or Frost Titan or whatever in more of the games you play.  Repeal all the way. Or at least Spell Pierce, for god's sake don't take the Efreet!  Damn.

  Pack 3 pick 3:

  My Pick:

Daze and Masticore are fine, and the color-fixing land is ok.  But what the deck is desperately short on at this point is ramp.  This guy's ramp.  I have four big finishers, one of which costs TEN for god's sake.

  Pack 3 pick 4:

  My Pick:

Powder Keg is a little tempting, but slow.  Draw a zillion cards and maybe get a fattie at the end?  Yes please!

  Pack 3 pick 5:

  My Pick:

Card drawing is ok and all, Mr. Jace, but you're no mind-sculptor and I desperately need ramp and OMG mana rock!  Yoink!

  Pack 3 pick 6:

  My Pick:

Old Man of the Sea is fine so I don't die early, and sometimes grabs something powerful though he's the worst of the 4 creature steal effects.  Memory Lapse is a fine tempo spell. But it occurs to me Dream Halls is an odd form of ramp. Ideally I can play Upheaval pitching some blue spell I don't need, and then spend ALL my mana casting stuff to win with, rather than "all minus six". Can't do Kozilek, but a cheated-out titan or sphinx might sometimes be the right play too.

  Pack 3 pick 7:

  My Pick:

You are not messing up my Sower of Temptation, sir.  No you are not.

  Pack 3 pick 8:

  My Pick:

Again, my inner Timmy messes with my pick, though this time he's not losing me anything as powerful as Repeal, this guy doesn't cost me life, and he can hit way harder than Efreet (though he gets chump blocked by everything). Still, this guy isn't worth shit on defense, which is what I need more from my early drops. Vesuvan Shapeshifter is the best pick here, Crypt is a fine sideboard card and even Stifle usually finds something to do.

  Pack 3 pick 9:

  My Pick:

The Scars Masticore is better.  This is a good value card for a blue deck, without the built in card disadvantage the Masticore has.

  Pack 3 pick 10:

  My Pick:

Considered Moment of Peace here.  But since it's a splash color I went with the blue dude. Nice late Pulse and Titan - but hey this is cube, where you see late bombs.

  Pack 3 pick 11:

  My Pick:

Hey, the better one!  Though actually with a ton of mana, the other guy might be easier to kill stuff with. Hitting players too is a nice option though.

  Pack 3 pick 12:

  My Pick:

Over nothing playable, this guys looks fine.

  Pack 3 pick 13:

  My Pick:


  Pack 3 pick 14:

  My Pick:


  Pack 3 pick 15:

  My Pick:

Could go with the Desolate Lighthouse to give me two shots at extra damage.  Forgot to read the "can NOT make mana without hurting you" clause, which came back to bite me later.  Ouch!

This draft converter created by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy. Visit the draft converter today!

 

This is a 17 land deck, the decklist generator decided to list Desolate Lighthouse as a spell rather than a land, sorry! I should have swapped Barbarian Ring for an island or mountain. Or gone straight blue, or blue-green. As it is, I didn't feel I had enough accel to start Kozilek, though I did side him in occasionally. Possibly I should have started him and/or the Masticore, and/or gone with the green ramp plan and 5 or so forests.  Anyway the deck is reasonably solid and has its fair shot at winning games. One of the main considerations in blue is whether you have enough card drawing to do your crazy stuff consistently, and I have Enclave Cryptologist, Aeon Chronicler, Looter Il-Kor, Ancestral Vision, Gifts Ungiven, Deep Analysis, Brainstorm, and Future Sight.  That even makes the card disadvantage of Dream Halls look not so bad.

Enclave Cryptologist Aeon Chronicler Looter Il-Kor Ancestral Vision

Gifts Ungiven Deep Analysis Brainstorm Future Sight

Round 1, fight!

Game 1 was a close and very challenging affair that shows just how much thinking and decisions can go into playing a blue deck in cube. My opponent's 1 drop and 2 drop led me to think I was up against White Weenie, but his later plays revealed a more complicated deck that went against my expectations of what was coming and what to play around several times.

I opened with a Basalt Monolith and a Frost Titan plus 3-4 lands, a turn 4 Frost Titan seemed excellent. My opponent's turn 1 Mother of Runes took some wind out of his sails, though. He spent a few turns tapping down Tundra and being blocked by a pro-blue weenie, leaving my opponent with only white and red mana but no blue. I decided to chance a Deep Analysis rather than hold up Essence Scatter mana.  He dropped a Phyrexian Processor on 7, to force me to hold Frost Titan back.  He held back activations to be able to respond after my tap a permanent trigger, the way he should.

I got some filtering capability online with Barbarian Ring and Desolate Lighthouse, but I was mostly tapping out anyway for spells and the Ring just cost me some life points. I had a choice between playing out Wake Thrasher, suspending Aeon Chronicler for more cards, or doing a Gifts Ungiven and looking for something specific. I wasn't going to put Upheaval in a gifts package, as it would go to the yard and I have no way to fetch it back. I had drawn Palinchron which I could cast next turn along with more stuff from the untapping, so I decided to go for four flyers and race in the air, picking these guys as my Gifts package at the end of his turn:

Sphinx of Jwar Isle Sower of Temptation Serendib Efreet Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

He let me keep the Sower and the Efreet. I untapped and played Palinchron, untapped some more and played the Efreet and a Palladium Myr. He cycled Eternal Dragon, and instead of making a second 7/7 he dropped Wall of Reverence. That could make racing a lot tougher - or make a great Sower target to buy ME time as I beat down in the air!

And here's where I punted, playing the Sower with his Mother of Runes untapped and waiting. He gave the wall pro-blue. Worse, looking back I see I could have then swung in with the titan and tapped his 7/7, keeping it from an untap next turn and forcing through more damage - I just swung in with two flyers, dealing 3 to him.

Even with 9 power of flyers on board, with him blocking the biggest and gaining 7 life a turn, this was not a route to victory for me.  Noticing my library being down to 17 cards already, I figured I'd play my topdecked Looter il-Kor, finally suspend Aeon Chronicler, and be seeing three new cards a turn to dig for Upheaval. With 13 mana in play, I could Upheaval, drop Basalt Monolith, Palladium Myr, Looter il-Kor and maybe a land, then drop Frost Titan the next turn, followed by Wake Thrasher and Palinchron.  Brutal.  He'd have plains, Mother of Runes, but he wouldn't get out much else before getting beaten to death.

Unfortunately, my Efreet and Barbarian Ring had me down to 10 - and he had another surprise.  Instead of picking one of my six dudes to chump block - or maybe this time he'd use pro blue to force in 7 damage, since I'd tapped my Palladium Myr for mana, "knowing" I could save it for the life-saving block when I was at 3. Unfortunately his next play was (Eslpeth, Knight Errant) and his attack was for 10 exactsies, plus flying so my Myr couldn't even have saved me.

I clicked "Draw Card" three times, and sure enough 3 cards down was Upheaval, which would have won for me. So, I could have had the game if I hadn't run Barbarian Ring *or* hadn't run Serendib Efreet, maybe if I'd made better use of my Sower (attack in with Frost Titan to force a Mother activation, then steal an unprotected target, even though I probably lose my Frost Titan to do it, is one option.)  Quite likely I win if I suspend Aeon Chronicler a few turns earlier too. Or if I'd held Essence Scatter open the turn he played Wall of Reverence.  But of course this is the opposite of constructed in your ability to guess your opponent's line and choose accordingly, especially in a game 1 of round 1!

On turn 9 when the game ended, instead of the usual 15 cards you'd see on the play, I'd seen 23 & could have gone even deeper. Anyway this game really underscored for me - while Cube is already possibly the most complex and challenging format to play, mono-blue in Cube is at the top of that.  The number of decisions I had to make in just 9 turns was staggering, there were myriad other ways I could have played out that game, each of them better or worse, and often with cases to be made for either at the moment you have to choose.  I'd used up fully half of my clock on game 1!

Game 2 I mulled to 6, and he got out an early Eight-and-a-Half Tails.  I dissipated his followup play, a 2/2 Kami, and he was stuck on two plains for multiple turns.  If I could draw enough action or get to 7 lands for my All is Dust I could have a shot. I also drew a Powder Keg to start ticking up, but sadly he got a land and a Grim Monolith, which brought out Batterskull.  Ewww.  All is Dust killed the troublesome fox cleric and the germ token carrying Batterskull, but that was just a temporary slowdown. And less of one when my opponent dropped Tundra and Venser, the Sojourner. Who could now blink Batterskull any time and get it a new germ to carry it, without paying the 8 mana that would usually cost! My Powder Keg was now on 3, and now was scheduled to be one turn to slow, rather than blowing up Batterskull BEFORE I would die.  Thanks to Venser.

I dropped Palinchron and a useless Dream Halls - with a hand of one island, Dream Halls doesn't do much!  His Fiend Hunter took out my 4/5 blocker.  My Powder Keg blew up Fiend Hunter and got my blocker back, score!  I played out (Enclave Cryptologist and leveled it up 3 times to prepare to try and win the long game with card advantage.

And that's when Martial Coup happened.  Followed by a Batterskull Blink, since the Coup for 8 had killed the germ token again. My opponent wished me luck for the next round, which I appreciated.

The best consolation is that I made no major mistakes, and also his draw this game was so much stronger than mine there's no line of play where I could have won by playing differently. It is possible I could have caught Venser in my All is Dust by delaying it one more turn. But the Martial Coup still would have killed me. Watch for these mistakes or better plays, though, if you don't spot them even in a game where they wouldn't have saved you, you're passing up opportunities to learn to improve your game!

 

Round 2, don't fight?!?

So, I was eager to give the deck another chance to improve itself. This time maybe I could focus more on card drawing and the Upheaval plan. Such a crazy way to beat someone, and...  I get a Bye?  In cube drafts, where you can't win boosters or raredraft or really get anything but "getting to play" and "winning chances to play more", missing one of the games especially sucks. Since they're all you GET out of cube drafting.  I watched the other guy's replays a bit and got some real work done.

Round 3, fight! 

Well, at least I'm winning four cube tix, but I want to prove the deck can win an actual match, and go for the eight besides. Unfortunately I was up against a quick black white deck with a mana-light hand game 1, and got run over.  Game two I took his early Gravecrawler with a Sower of Temptation, but I managed to miss 3 land drops along the way, sitting at 5 mana with Upheaval as he dropped a Grave Titan. When he swung in to bring himself up to 4 zombie tokens and dropped a Smokestack besides, my Ancestral Vision resolved and got me the 6th land for an Upheaval for "just stay alive" rather than any value. Unfortunately I had chosen not to trade the stolen Gravecrawler for his Loyal Cathar, so he killed me with those in short order. I would have had a couple more turns (and then still lost) had I made that earlier trade.

I think the deck was good, but pilot error and deck misbuilding lost the first round, and poor luck the last. It might have been better to run 18 land - certainly though the deck needed a couple more good mana accelerants. It had plenty of card draw and enough finishers. More control would be good too, like the repeal I passed.

All in all, I'd say it's certainly viable though it didn't work out this time - but it might be hard to get this many playables consistently unless you cut blue hard in pack 1 (and maybe even then).  Also you'd better be prepared to play high complexity games and make key decisions well, or see a game of inches go the other way because of a mistake you made, which can be very frustrating!  I'm up to try such a challenge again, but blue white, blue black, or blue green can give you more overall power and a slightly less insane amount of options each turn, so I'll look forward to going back to two+ color drafting.  Stay tuned for black and white, which should both be somewhat easier!

3 Comments

Great Series!!! by Orgion at Mon, 10/15/2012 - 11:44
Orgion's picture
5

Loving this series! Cheers for the efforts. Easily one of the best cube draft articles out there. My G'd, if I see another UG 2-1 cube deck I'm going to do something silly...
Major props for the dream halls by the way. Go big or go home - only way to cube.

On the deck/draft, mono-blue is easily the hardest deck to play in any environment. I used to have a 100-card singleton mono-U deck that I tried a couple times in the weekend tournies (before they stopped grrrr.....). I could often win match 1 but my head hurt so much after I'd have to go lie down. Always got steam rollered in the later matches.

I'm not sure whether you agree but it seems that mono-blue wasn't quite there for you. I always find early defense is the biggest problem in mono-blue and you didn't really get passed any of the normal role-players (vedalken shackles for example). I think I might have taken tectonic edge rather than delver. I also might have considered masticore, daze or breeding pool over the STE. It's ramp seems a little slow, only jumping you one, and it's in your splash. I'm sure I read somewhere (possibly even in your column?) never to use ramp in a splash colour because you don't get it early enough, but maybe I'm wrong?

Anyway, definite kudos for trying though. Bring on Black and White!

Enjoying the series, but I by blandestk at Mon, 10/15/2012 - 20:40
blandestk's picture

Enjoying the series, but I have to disagree on two points. Serendib is nowhere near garbage. Might not fit the theme you drafted, but it's nowhere near terrible and is often a phenomenal weapon for blue. Secondly, I don't think the Scars Masticore is nearly as good as the original. Your deck was not geared toward having a ton of creatures to toss or have dead, so its method of removal probably wouldn't have been as good for you. Minor issues, I know, but they stuck out to me as I read. Thanks for the series!

Glad you're enjoying it! And by Felorin at Fri, 10/19/2012 - 07:24
Felorin's picture

Glad you're enjoying it! And yeah, Serendib Efreet is a great card in some decks. He was just a very bad choice for this deck, and I was punished for not sticking to my chosen deck style better. With a ton of card draw I suppose there's a little to be said for giving the deck options which way to play out, but then you have to recognize which line of play is best in each game, which I did not in my game 1. And even so, cube is so powerful overall that if 95% of your opponent's cards fit the same theme, and your deck's a bit of a jumble, you're going to have a hard time keeping up.

Regarding ramp, generally it's dead on to never use ramp in a splash color, and that's why the artifact ramp cards in cube are often high picks and go early. That applies to any 2+ color deck that's adding a splash though - we're a special case here because we know we're always going mono-colored. While a clasic splash with 1-4 lands of the splash color will be too unreliable for ramping, in a "blue splash green" deck you could easily run something like 11-12 islands and 5-7 forests, almost always have your blue mana, and still get the splash color early. While that's usually considered too many forests for a small splash, if you have 2-3 green cards that are only good early, you can often get away with setting up your manabase that way. (If you have heavy double-blue or triple blue spells though, be careful not to go too low.)